You have been training for weeks, your first half marathon is finally insight, what do you do in those final weeks, days, and hours to prepare for your best race?
For me, half marathon season is already in full swing, with the My better Half Marathon, BMO Vancouver Half Marathon, and Snoqualmie Valley Run Half Marathon already marked off my 2016 race calendar. However many of my athletes are gearing up for the first race of their season and one of the questions I often get is “What can I do in the final count down to race day?” In the final weeks, days, and hours to race day the majority of your training should already be behind you. When it comes to workouts it’s time to scale back and trust that you have already done all of the hard work to get you successfully across that finish line. Your taper is the time in your half marathon training program for your body to rest and peak but there are still some important things you can do to help prepare for your best race. Try implementing these 5 strategies as you head into the final days before your first half marathon.
5 Half Marathon Training Final Tips For Your First Race
If you have been following a regimented half marathon training plan then your final week should be your taper. The number one thing to focus on as you head into your taper is rest. This can be a hard one for the typical go-getter endurance athlete. We like to work hard, which means scaling back makes us antsy. Remember that the taper is an important component of your training plan. During your taper your mileage and intensity will drop, while your frequency of workouts remains the same. Avoid the temptation to log one last long run, hill workout, or killer strength session. It takes 7-10 days for your body to fully recover and adapt to these high demand sessions which means you wont see the benefit of these grueling sessions on race day. In fact you will just be fatiguing your body and ultimately diminishing your return on all those weeks of hard work you logged leading up to race day. Allow your body to fully recover from those weeks training so you can show up fresh and ready to perform at your best.
While most athletes understand the importance of keeping up on their hydration needs during a race, they often miss an important opportunity leading up to race day to make sure they show up well hydrated and ready to race. Make sure to drink plenty of water in the days leading up to your race. In his book “Ready to Run” Physical therapist Kelley Starret suggests athletes drink 100 oz if water a day with electrolytes to maintain optimal tissue health. When we are dehydrated our muscle cells can become “sticky” this can effect function and could ultimately lead to lackluster performance come race day.
Grab a large reusable water bottle to keep with you during the day. Pop your favorite electrolyte tablets in as needed, I use Nuun lime, and enjoy throughout the day. A final note on hydration is there is a limit to how much water your body can absorb at one time, make sure to sip through out the day and avoid trying to get all of your water in at one time.
3. Foam Roll
If you are itching for a workout put that energy into some more comprehensive foam rolling sessions. If you haven’t included regular foam rolling routine half marathon training program now is the time to start! Foam rolling helps to break up adhesions that develop in your muscles. These adhesions are “sticky” points that no longer allow the muscle fibers to slide past one another the way they are designed to. These adhesions can inhibit rang of motion, which can effect performance, and potentially lead to injury. Joint injuries often occur when one joint tries to take on the function of another joint in the body that it was not designed for. This happens due to dysfunction in another joint along the kinetic chain. For instance you can have knee pain as a result of tight glutes that are preventing the hip from having its normal range of motion. By taking time to break up these adhesions and restore proper range of motion you will have a more enjoyable, and possibly faster race day. Foam rolling also helps to keep your muscles hydrate, so make sure you are drinking your H2O and foam rolling to get those fluids into the tissue.5 #HalfMarathon Training Tips For Your First Race Click To Tweet
Proper nutrition for half marathon training is just as important in the days leading up to your race is just as is is on race day. Make sure you are eating high quality food that will help your body repair and prepare for the race. Try to avoid junk foods and anything else that could lead to GI distress on race day. What to eat for your pre race meal is an important consideration. Try to wake up early enough to eat 2-4 hours a head of your start time. What you eat on the day of your race morning will depend on what works best for you, most people do best with a carbohydrate rich breakfast combined with some good protein. If you have a touchy tummy avoid high fat and fiber rich foods as these foods are likely to cause GI distress during your run. If you start to feel hungry loss to the start of your race have a simple carbohydrate snack, like a banana before the start gun goes off.
5. Work on Your Mental Game
It takes weeks of preparation to get ready for an endurance event, but the reality is making it through your first race is as much mental as it is physical. Take time in these final weeks to work on the mental side of your training. Each night before you go to sleep visualize your perfect race, from the start line, through the course, all the way to the finish line. Use as much detail as you can, how do you want to feel on race day? What time does the clock read as you cross the finish line. Taking the time to build this mental frame work helps you race your best come the big day.
On the day of the race remember to run the mile you are in. Thinking about the entire race can be daunting, a lot can happen during an endurance race. While one mile may feel insurmountable, the next mile may feel like you took flight, stay in the present and tackle one mile at a time.
If you haven’t been practicing your mantras during your long runs take some time in these final days to find a mantra that inspires you. A mantra is a statement that you will repeat to yourself during the race when things get tough. Having a mantra can be just the thing to get you through the difficult miles of the race. For more tips on honing your mental game check out Mentally Tough: How To Train Your Brain For Race Day.
Run Your Race
Most importantly, focus on enjoying your big day! You have worked hard to get here. Take time in the final count down to race day to take care of your mind and body. Take pictures, thank your friends and family for supporting your journey, and don’t forget to enjoy the experience, you earned it!
I want to hear from you, in the comments below tell me what is one thing that you have found helps you prepare in the final weeks to a big race?